In the wider scheme of the cosmos this story is probably as microcosmic as they come, but hey, it’s a story nonetheless and ends with this pretty damn fine cake. The other day I bought some sultana grapes, tiny little jewels bursting with juice and ready to be gorged by the kids as an after school snack. Before they devoured the lot my lovely other half said,
“why don’t you dry them out to make sultanas?” – there’s a thought I thought – I’ve never done that before.
I’ve seen great documentaries of owners of coffee and cacao plantations drying out their beans and pods in the wonderful South American sunshine, so why not do that with a handful of grapes in this glorious antipodean sunshine – looks easy enough and it is still summer here. Well, it was not as straightforward as I first thought – there was this strange occurrence of the sun moving around throughout the day. A tad inconsiderate of the chap who’s ‘got his hat on (hip hip hip hooray) and he’s coming out to play’ – he wasn’t half dicking around with those shadows. Every time I placed the tray of grapes in one sunny spot, 20 minutes later it was in darkness. All in all after daily movements to every nook and cranny of the garden to get the most sun possible, the drying, which was supposed to take 2-3 days, took 2 weeks. And every night I brought the raisins inside there was always some surprise, usually in the form of the rather handy little jumping spiders. But bloody hell, when those sultanas were ready they were absolutely magnificent – little balls of sweet grapey loveliness.
Just before last Christmas I got this little Bundt pan; it’s a fluted ringed baking tin that makes a cake look a little more elegant than your average boy racer. I had used it once – did a belting candied orange Christmas wreath cake – and have been wanting to use it ever since. So, please make a bow and entrance for some freshly dried sultana grapes macerated in Calvados, that apple brandy that adds stunning flavour to all kinds of cooking. These hiccuping sultanas now formed the base flavour for my second Bundt cake. Next, I set about developing the cake recipe. If you can get to grips with the concept that there are dry components (flour and raising agents), wet components (milk, buttermilk or yoghurt and eggs), fat (butter or oil) and sugar, along with any other flavours and additions, then you can set about creating the cake of your dreams. I wanted a fairly dark coloured cake therefore used a combination of refined sugar and unrefined light and dark sugars (muscovado). I added a nice tart apple, some Chinese five-spice powder and a little ground cinnamon, perfect foils for the sultanas and Calvados. And to enhance the flavour post baking, a glug of Calvados was drizzled on the warm cake to add a wonderful comforting boozy nuance (only a nuance, just enough for the kids to sleep).
A Boozy Little BundtPrint
- 75g sultanas | Bought ones are fine - unless you have 2 weeks to spare 😉
- 60ml Calvados |
- 2 green apples | Granny Smiths are perfect - cored, peeled and diced.
- For the Cake:
- 200g butter | Plus extra for greasing the tin.
- 100g white castor sugar |
- 100g light muscovado sugar |
- 75g dark muscovado sugar |
- 3 large eggs |
- 200ml full fat milk |
- 50g natural yoghurt |
- 350g plain flour | Sieved.
- ¾ tsp. bicarbonate of soda |
- ¾ tsp. baking powder |
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon |
- ½ tsp. Chinese five-spice powder | See recipe link below.
- For the Topping:
- 1 tsp. Calvados | plus a enough to drizzle over the warm cake
- 100g icing sugar | Also known as confectioners sugar. Plus extra for coating the tin.
- 1-2 tbsp. water |
Add the sultanas and Calvados to a non-reactive bowl and leave to macerate in a fridge overnight; so that they become friendly.
Preheat an oven to 170 deg. C (340 deg. F). Prepare a Bundt pan or other cake tin by greasing it with butter and then sprinkling with icing sugar. Turn the tin over and tap it to remove any excess. Wrap some baking parchment around the outside of the pan/ tin and secure with butchers string to prevent the outer part of the cake from darkening too much during baking.
Take the sultanas and Calvados out of the fridge, add the diced apple, mix and set aside.
Beat the butter with all the sugars until nice and fluffy – use a mixer if you have one otherwise do it manually. Next add an egg and beat until mixed in. Repeat with the other two eggs. Now add the yoghurt and mix well and then slowly add the milk beating all the time (use a sturdy whisk for this bit if you’re doing it be hand). Now add the sieved flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and Chinese five-spice powder and beat until well mixed (revert to a wooden spoon if doing this by hand). Now add the sultanas, apple and all the Calvados and gently fold into the cake batter. Pour the batter into your Bundt pan or cake tin, level it out and then stick it in the pre-heated oven to bake. The time will vary depending on the size of the tin, but check after 40 minutes – pierce with a skewer and when it comes out clean the cake is done. Mine took 55 minutes by the way.
When the cake has cooled from hot to warm turn it out onto a cake rack. Drizzle a little Calvados over.
Make the icing by whisking the 1 teaspoon of Calvados, 1 tablespoon of water and icing sugar together. You want a pourable consistency – add a little more water if necessary, but only a very little at a time. When the cake has cooled, drizzle the icing over the top and leave for 30 minutes to set. Now dive in and enjoy this boozy little Bundt.
The recipe for Chinese five-spice powder is here.